Confessions of a Potty Training Failure

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My name is Amy, and I am a potty training failure. The very term “potty training” gives me heart palpitations. A quick Google search tells me I am not alone. Struggling parents can find info on potty training boys, potty training a two-year-old, how to know when your child is ready to potty train, and any number of specific potty training methods. 

Parents have access to an abundance of videos, books, and articles to which they can turn for help. There are professional potty trainers who teach parents classes on potty training. Some will even come to your home for a consultation, a kind of Supernanny for potty training. 

Before I was a mom, I had parenting all figured out. After all, I was an elementary teacher, a child professional. So when my first child was 18 months old, I decided it was time to potty train.

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My First Attempt at Potty Training

I read the book on how to train your one-year-old in two days. We got the chair, the M&Ms, and the big kid underwear. Then we set aside two days to do nothing but potty train. It didn’t work, but that didn’t deter me. I kept at it. FOR A YEAR. My son finally told me, “I’ll use the potty when I’m three.” So after his third birthday, I reminded him of the deal he had made, and he started using the potty. 

Potty training boys, potty training girls, the three-day potty training method. I've done it all. But I was much more successful with child number 6 than with child number 1 because of this one thing...Twins came next, then a fourth, all boys. I really have no memory of how most of that went. Not just the potty training. I actually have little memory of any of those days, except we were all just trying to survive. The one thing I do remember is that one of them, when he was four, was still afraid to poop on the potty. So he would literally PUT ON HIS OWN DIAPER, poop, then come ask me to change him. It drove Grandma NUTS! But guess what? He went to school fully trained, so whatever.

Potty Training My First Girl

Fast-forward several years. The boys are all teens and we are in the process of adopting two sweet little girls. Certainly now, after all this parenting experience, I can potty train a child at age two. She’s a girl and girls are easier to potty train than boys, right? Wrong. I failed again. But this time I was smart enough to let it go and wait until she was closer to three to try again.

Now her little sister, child number six, is just turning three. For several months she had been showing signs of readiness. Any time I put her on the potty, she would pee right away with no waiting. She kept taking off her diaper, but (and I’m not ashamed to admit this) I duct-taped it back on. “You might be ready, but mommy’s not ready yet!” I told her.

Two weeks before her third birthday, we started training. And we were completely done a week later. Almost no accidents, no waiting and waiting on the potty, no scheduling potty breaks, no cleaning up messes, no tantrums. No MOM tantrums! And no potty chair to clean; she goes in the big potty. She even goes in public restrooms with no problems.

The Magic of Waiting Until Age ThreePotty training boys, potty training girls, the three-day potty training method. I've done it all. But I was much more successful with child number 6 than with child number 1 because of this one thing...

Does that mean if you wait until your child is three, they will train this easily? Not necessarily. Some need extra time, encouragement, or reinforcement. Remember my four-year-old who put on his own diaper to poop?

But once they are trained, it will be done. There won’t be another year or two of you reminding them to go, having to bring extra clothes everywhere in case of an accident, or panicking as you dash to the nearest restroom when they say they have to go.

Why are we in such a hurry to potty train?

  1. Child’s rite of passage. “I’m a big kid now!” Remember the jingle?
  2. Save money on diapers. When I had three in diapers, I couldn’t imagine how our budget would change when we didn’t have to buy diapers anymore. I quickly learned how it would “change”. Before I knew it, I was spending more for my kids to throw away their school lunch every day than I ever spent on diapers.
  3. Bragging rights. “My little one was trained before age two. How about yours?” Honestly? Who cares?? I’m more concerned about my child’s character than what age they were potty trained.
  4. Convenience. Hmm…what’s more convenient? Changing a toddler a couple of times a day, or having to plan every outing around your child’s pooping schedule?
  5. Grandma says so. Grandmas are amazing, awesome, the best! But grandmas aren’t the ones taking your toddler into a public restroom, holding them on the potty with one hand while holding the baby in another.

You may have other reasons, but these are the ones that came to mind.

My Favorite Potty Training Products

Raise your hand if you love cleaning out potty chairs. Anyone? Nope. In fact, we recently threw away a potty seat because we just didn’t want to clean it out. It’s a long story, for another day perhaps, but it explains why I don’t even use them anymore. Here is what I recommend instead. Just click on the image for more info:

This toilet seat is awesome! So easy to use, no storage required, and no extra cleaning.
Here is what we use most at our house, the infamous “cushie tushie.” Fits right over the regular potty seat. These come in many styles with just about any beloved character you want. Love them!

Potty Training Your Way

Now if you want to potty train your infant using EC (Elimination Communication), go for it! If you want to use the three-day potty training method with your one- or two-year-old, I’ll cheer you on. If you want to wait until your child is four, yay you! I am all for rooting you on in whatever works best for you and your child.

You need only answer to yourself and your child. Potty train your way, in your time. Don’t let grandma, friends, or trends pressure you into thinking it should be done their way.

Yes, I am a potty training failure. My new motto is, “If at first you don’t succeed, wait.” Just wait. Then wait some more.

Want to see what else we’re doing differently our second round of parenting? Check out the rest of the series below!

2 Comments

  1. Awesome job, Amy! Potty training can be SO hard. I think your list of why we try to do it too early was dead on. We need to keep reminding ourselves that it’s not about us. It’s not a reflection on who we are as people, or as parents. it took me until my 2nd child was 5 to realize that. That goes for reading and all of the other “milestones” our kids hit. Every kid is different.
    Facing Cancer with Grace – Zero in on Self-Care

    • amyjo0669

      Absolutely! I started writing a list of things that don’t matter to me anymore in parenting. Then I realized nearly everything on the list had something to do with my child being first. First at walking, talking, reading, potty training, whatever. It’s just not what’s important!

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